General Information

  • Official Name: Kingdom of Thailand
  • Official Languages: Thai
  • There are four official dialects of Thai, largely coinciding with regional designations. 
  • Southern Thai is spoken in the southern provinces. Northern Thai is spoken in provinces that were formerly part of the independent kingdom of Lan Na.
  • Isan, sometimes considered a Thai dialect, is actually a Lao dialect. It is spoken in a region that was historically part of the Lao kingdom Lan Xang.
  • Kelantan-Pattani Malay is the primary language of Malay Muslims.
  • In a 2011 Country Report, the Royal Thai Government recognized 62 languages, including numerous tribal languages.
  • English is a mandatory school subject, but fluency is low, especially outside urban areas.
  • Population: 69,683,801
  • Currency: Baht ฿
  • Thailand lies at the center of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula.
  • It shares land borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. It shares maritime boundaries with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea.
  • Capital: Bangkok
  • Government: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
  • Thailand is a Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy in name, but the recent 2014 coup established a de facto military dictatorship under a junta, or committee of military leaders.
  • Thailand has had 20 constitutions and charters since its transition from an absolute monarchy in 1932, including the most recent 2017 Constitution.
  • Under the lèse-majesté law, critics of Thailand’s kings can be jailed for three to fifteen years.
  • Thailand has three distinct seasons, dictated by monsoon winds: The rainy or southwest monsoon season lasts from May to October. It brings warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean and abundant rain over most of the country. Winter or northeast monsoon season lasts from October to February, and brings cold and dry air from China over most of Thailand. These monsoon winds bring mild weather to Southern Thailand and abundant rainfall to the southeastern coast. Summer or pre-monsoon season lasts from mid-February until mid-May, and brings warmer weather.
  • Sports: Muay Thai is a native form of kickboxing and Thailand’s signature sport. Football, Volleyball, Rugby and Golf have grown in popularity. Thailand has been called the golf capital of Asia, and the country has more than 200 world class golf courses nationwide, some of which host PGA and LPGA tournaments. 

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  • Over 93% of the Thai population self identifies as Buddhists of the Theravada tradition.
  • Muslims are the second largest religious group, comprising around 4% of the population.




  • Thailand has a largely rural population, with concentrations in the nation’s central, northeastern, and northern rice-growing regions.
  • Thailand’s urban population (45% of total) is concentrated mostly in and around the capital city, Bangkok.
  • Thai nationals make up around 95% of the population. Of the remaining 5%, 2% are Burmese. 
  • Thai Chinese, who have significant Chinese heritage, make up 14% of the population, while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry are estimated to make up to 40% of the population. 
  • 3% of the population are Thai Malay, and the remainder consists of Mons, Khmers, and various “hill tribes.”



Societal Values

  • Families are the cornerstone of life, and it is not uncommon for extended family to live in the same household.
  • Family hierarchy and economic social stratification are pronounced. While economic distinctions traditionally consisted of elites and nobility, merchants, and a large poorer rural class, middle and poorer urban classes have developed in recent years.
  • Rice plays such an important role in Thai cuisine that he world for “rice” and “food” is the same.
  • The traditional ‘wai’ greeting is given by the person of lower status to the person of higher status. Raise both hands, palms joined with the fingers pointing upwards as if in prayer, lightly touching the body somewhere between the chest and forehead. Respect and courtesy are designated by the height of hands and how low the head comes down. 
  • The concept of ‘face’ is important to Thais as with other Asian cultures: avoid criticizing or correcting someone in public. Raised voices, anger, worry, and other heated emotions lead to a loss of face. Frank comments on people’s body shape (such as “you’ve put on weight”) are not thought of as rude, and not intended to be hurtful, invasive, or offensive.
  • Thais are indirect communicators, and may use vague responses or change the subject to avoid hurting or offending you.
  • It is taboo to touch the top of someone’s head, even a child’s, as this is considered the most sacred part of the body.
  • Do not eat with or pass something with your left hand.



Business Communication & Relationships

  • Thailand’s economy is heavily export-dependent, with exports accounting for more than two-thirds of their GDP.
  • These exports include cars, computers, electrical appliances, rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, and jewelry.
  • The total value of exports is US$213,593 million; the total value of imports: US$195,714 million.
  • Western education is greatly valued; it is common to be asked about your studies and the prestige of your degree.
  • Punctuality and formal attire is expected for business meetings.
  • Relationships are important in business culture, and small talk always begins a meeting, with usual topics including family, age, hobbies, and education.
  • Business cards are often exchanged when meeting new associates for the first time; ensure they are double sided (English & Thai) and present the card with your right or both hands. Read business cards prior to putting them away.
  • Small token gifts are frequent and often appreciated.
  • Bangkok traffic is notoriously bad, and many foreign executives schedule no more than two meetings per day. 
  • Many Thai business people in Bangkok conduct meetings from their cars via cell phones, laptops, and fax machines. 


November 5, 2019